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Post Info TOPIC: California

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RE: California

Just back from our (non birding) California Road Trip. Our route took us from Los Angeles to Morro Bay, Carmel by the Sea, Yosemite, across to San Francisco and finally, 60 miles north to Napa before flying home from San Francisco. The weather throughout was good with no rain at all. San Francisco and Carmel seem to have their own micro climates with a day or so in each that were cool and cloudy. Otherwise it was fine and sunny, ranging from warm to very hot, especially in Yosemite. On our journey from Yosemite to San Francisco, the thermometer peaked at 100 degrees f.

We were with a non birding couple, so it was a question of birding a half hour here and an hour there whenever possible. An ongoing health problem causing fatigue put paid to any pre breakfast walks so most of my birding was done mid day. Morning lies in together with a kip late afternoon were the order of the day. Good if you like your sleep but not good if you are a keen birder!

Areas birded :-

- San Francisco from the hop on, hop off bus
- Morro Bay, beautiful estuary type scenery, would have liked to have spent more time here
- Nepenthe Restaurant viewing terrace, Big Sur
- Garland Ranch, roughly eight miles in to the Carmel Valley
- Carmel River Mouth and shore
- Moss Landing Harbor. Cracking area adjacent to Elkhorn Slough a reserve I could have really got my teeth into given different circumstances
- Wawona Meadow walk, southern section of Yosemite
- San Francisco Bay to Alcatraz Island via boat
- Timberhill Park on the western edges of Napa
- JF Kennedy Park, Napa

On the whole, a great trip even if the birding was limited. The trip list finished at 89 with around 25 being additions to my US list and 22 being lifers.

Trip List :-

Canada Goose
Mute Swan
Surf Scoter
Pied billed Grebe
Western Grebe
Brandt's Cormorant
Pelagic Cormorant
Double-crested Cormorant
American White Pelican
Brown Pelican
Great Blue Heron
Great Egret
Snowy Egret
Black-crowned Night Heron
Turkey Vulture
White-tailed Kite
Red-shouldered Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
Black-necked Stilt
Snowy Plover
Long-billed Curlew
Marbled Godwit
Common Murre
Pigeon Guillemot
Heermann's Gull
Western Gull
California Gull
Caspian Tern
Forster's Tern
Black Skimmer
Rock Pigeon
Band-tailed Pigeon
Eurasian Collared Dove
Mourning Dove
Vaux's Swift
White-throated Swift
Anna's Hummingbird
Allen's Hummingbird
Acorn Woodpecker
Red-breasted Sapsucker
Pileated Woodpecker
American Kestrel
Prairie Falcon
Red-masked Parakeet
Western Wood-Pewee
Pacific-slope Flycatcher
Black Phoebe
Loggerhead Shrike
Warbling Vireo
Steller's Jay
California Scrub-Jay
American Crow
Common Raven
Northern Rough-winged Swallow
Tree Swallow
Violet-green Swallow
Bank Swallow
Barn Swallow
Cliff Swallow
Chestnut-backed Chickadee
Oak Titmouse
Red-breasted Nuthatch
Brown Creeper
Marsh Wren
Western Bluebird
American Robin
Northern Mockingbird
European Starling
Yellow Warbler
Black-throated Grey Warbler
Grasshopper Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
White-crowned Sparrow
Savannah Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Spotted Towhee
Black-headed Grosbeak
Lazuli Bunting
Red-winged Blackbird
Brown-headed Cowbird
Brewer's Blackbird
House Finch
Purple Finch
House Sparrow

A few bridge camera photos attached showing California Scrub-Jay, Steller's Jay, Red-masked Parakeet, Western Gull, Pigeon Guillemot, American Robin, Red-winged Blackbird, Western Bluebird and Marsh Wren.


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Posts: 1164

A bit more info Ollie via my US pal.

The Monterey Peninsula (south of San Francisco) is a must. In the Monterey area, have a look at Moss Landing, Elkhorn Slough, Moonglow Dairy Ponds and the ponds at Zmudlowski Beach.

Carmel Valley is only a few miles south of Monterey itself. The best bits here are from Carmel Rivermouth right up to Chew's Ridge. I have done a bit of research into Carmel (the town) and it looks a really nice place to stay and where you could certainly make your base for a few days.

Down the coast from Carmel is Big Sur State Park and also Pfeiffer State Park, both worth a look. However, I am told there has been a landslide on this section of the Pacific Highway. Hopefully, any road problems will have been rectified by the time you travel.

Regarding the Pelagics from Fisherman's Wharf in Monterey, the seabirds are just about the best anywhere in the US. They should also be good for several species of Whale and Dolphin. If you have a look at my Alaska trip report within this section, the second part of that trip (a cruise) was from Vancouver down to San Diego. We were around 25-50 miles off the California coast and we saw stuff like South Polar Skua, Phalaropes, Black-footed Albatross, Buller's Shearwater, Black-vented Shearwater, Sooty Shearwater, Fork-tailed Storm Petrel and a good variety of Gulls. Bearing in mind we were on a cruise liner steaming through at 22 knots or whatever, the mind boggles at the birds a pelagic would turn up.




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That's really useful - Cheers Mark!


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Posts: 1164

Hi Ollie

Regarding field guides, the Sibley ones are just about the best for the US. A mate of mine who has recently moved to Colombia from Florida, after living in the US for around 25 years, recommended them. Essentially, there are three. One for the west, one for the east and one for the whole of a North America. A word of warning, the latter is quite heavy, although it's the one I bought for a birding trip to Texas in 2015, partly because there was some range overlap in western Texas, where we were.

I am hoping to go on a family road trip type holiday to California next spring, with a bit of birding here and there. Not sure if you go on the website ebird.org but it's quite useful for current/past sightings and hotspot areas, with hundreds of trip lists for hundreds of birding sites. I am planning on doing some birding in the Monterey area (Big Sur and Carmel Valley) and there are also one or two pelagics that run out of Monterey. In that regard, September should be ideal. I also plan to visit Yosemite and have been using ebird to see what is generally seen within the park. Other than that, I'll be asking my mate for ideas nearer the time and meanwhile looking at trip reports from the birding tour companies that are easy enough to peruse on the net.




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Posts: 234

Hi all,

I'm heading to California for a fortnight in September and wondering if anybody can recommend me a decent field guide to buy? And if anyone has been themselves, tips on must-visit locations would be greatly appreciated.  


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